by Kate Cusimano
Yesterday was World AIDS Day, and as we celebrate how far we have come in fighting and preventing this disease, it is important to remember how significant a problem it continues to be, particularly in Africa. According to the UN AIDS Report, more than 70% of the persons infected with HIV worldwide live in Sub-Saharan Africa as did 90% of the 210,000 children under the age of 15 who died of AIDS-related causes last year.
These statistics serve to highlight the fact that along with a lack of clean water, AIDS continues to be a serious challenge across Africa. In fact, these two issues go hand-in-hand. The risks associated with a lack of sanitation and consumption of contaminated water are exponentially more dangerous to a person whose immune system is compromised by HIV or AIDS. Access to clean water is always a matter of life and death, but if an individual with HIV/AIDS hopes to have a chance at survival, he or she must have clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
In addition to the obvious health benefits it provides, a new well results in increased female empowerment and improved access to education, two factors that are also associated with a decreased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because it is so fundamental to our survival, it is easy to lose sight of the many ways in which water and the lack of it shape our communities. So, as we mark the 25th annual World AIDS Day, let us stop to consider the many ways we can contribute to the fight against this devastating disease.